November 18 – 23, 2014
Book Presentation: Committee of One

Patricia Holt CoverFirst presentation and book signing
by author Patricia Martin Holt
Tuesday, November 18, 7 pm
Madison Central Library, Room 301
201 W Mifflin St, Madison, WI [Map]

The Wisconsin Book Festival, in partnership with the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, presents Patricia Holt to discuss her book Committee of One. Free and open to the public.

Second presentation and book signing
by author Patricia Martin Holt
Sunday, November 23, 12:45 pm – 1:45pm
First Unitarian Society
900 University Bay Drive
Madison, WI [Map]

Sponsored by the First Unitarian Society and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. Free and open to the public.

“When I married a retired hydrologist, I had no idea how our travels to the Middle East would change my perspective. Initially interested in the fine crafts of the area, I was led to Leila Wahbeh. The day I met her was the day my life changed forever.

Her story unfolds with her family’s flight from Jerusalem to Egypt in 1947 to avoid the terrors of the war with Israel, and their return four years later to find they had lost everything. Despite suffering terrible hardships and deprivations, Leila finishes school and marries a doctor. All goes well until the 1967 War. Her husband, because he renders aid to war victims, is deported, leaving Leila and their four children in Jerusalem as pawns for his good behavior and hers. Despite the probability of her own imprisonment, with circumstances weighed against her, she continues her crusade for the poor.

Leila moves mountains of red tape in her efforts to transform the helpless into the helpful. In Committee of One, you’ll meet, as I did during our stays, some of the people whose dignity and pride she has single-handedly restored: Um Rafila, born in a cave as her mother fled her village in 1948; Um X who can’t read or write but whose ten children will graduate from college; Um Ghassan, whose piecework provides the medical care needed by her dying pre-school daughter; and Mustafa, a young engineer, who is jailed for preventing renewed garbage dumping at the first cleared site for Leila’s new sanitation center in Baqa’a Camp. With unflagging energy and donations of money and materials, Leila helps her people to become self-sufficient. One family survives, then 100. As those 100 educated families reach out to hundreds more, thousands of families cross the bridges built by a Committee of One.”

Continue reading

Israel bans Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from Gaza

BBC News, 14 November 2014

Dr Mads Gilbert at work in Gaza in 2009Dr Gilbert, pictured here in 2009, has been a frequent visitor to Gaza. (Getty Images)

A Norwegian doctor has been permanently banned from entering the Gaza Strip by the Israeli government.

Dr Mads Gilbert says he was stopped trying to cross into Gaza in October. He called the move “totally unacceptable”.

Israel cited security reasons for imposing the ban.

Dr Gilbert has treated patients in Gaza for more than a decade. He worked at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City during the 50-day summer conflict.

He told the BBC he had never broken any Israeli rules during his spells working in Gaza.

But he suggested that his open reporting of the medical situation in the territory had angered the Israeli authorities.

“The fundamental reason for the ill health of the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing,” he said.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, described Dr Gilbert as a “Jekyll and Hyde” figure, hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor.

He said an investigation was under way into Dr Gilbert and that the decision would be reviewed.

The Norwegian foreign ministry has said it will challenge the ban.

In July, Dr Gilbert was one of the co-signatories in a strongly-worded letter denouncing Israeli action in Gaza, published in the medical journal, the Lancet.

He also described scenes in the Shifa Hospital this summer as the worst he had ever seen.

November 7-8, 2014
Voices for Peace and Justice in Palestine

Searching for Peace
The Capital City Hues
October 30, 2014

From Barbara Olson and The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project:

Do you feel baffled and disturbed by what the major media variously describe as "an age-old religious conflict" or "the endless cycle of violence" between Israel and Palestine? Did the pictures of the terrible bloodshed, destruction and suffering in Gaza last summer leave you wondering what’s really going on there and what role our government is playing and why?

Do you wish that there could be a peaceful and just solution for all the people of the region? Do you wonder what you could do to help?

You have a chance to explore these and many other questions at the upcoming Voices for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land conference, Friday and Saturday, November 7 and 8 at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison.

The conference will examine the role of the U.S. in the Palestine/Israel conflict, featuring the stories, political viewpoints and theological perspectives of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and secular scholars, writers and activists concerned with justice and peace for all people of the region. It is designed to educate, inspire and make connections and to galvanize advocacy for peaceful, just and creative solutions.

Distinguished plenary speakers and workshop leaders from the US and Palestine will address the current situation on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank, and explore the impacts of US foreign policy, the media and religion on the region’s struggle for justice.

Participants will have a chance to interact with others about relevant historical realities, discuss timely updates regarding facts on the ground, and explore creative responses such as fact-finding and witness tours, campus and church organizing, community education and humanitarian assistance, and peaceful strategies for change like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and public policy advocacy.

The conference also features two showings of the film Where Should the Birds Fly?, the first film about Gaza made by Palestinians living under Israel’s siege of this tiny enclave. The film itself breaks the blockade, since Gazans have never had the opportunity to make a full length, professional documentary of their reality. Film maker Fida Qishta, born and raised in Rafah, Gaza, will lead discussions of her film.

Friday night features a Palestinian dinner for paid conference participants. At 7:30 there will be a free cultural evening open to the public, with performances by Palestinian poet and spoken word artist Remi Kanazi and the Milwaukee Students for Justice in Palestine Debke folk dance troupe.

A beautiful traveling poster exhibit called “Boycott: The Art of Economic Activism” will be on display during the conference.  Created by the American Friends Service Committee, the exhibit features 59 posters from over 20 boycotts, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, United Farm Workers grape and lettuce boycotts, divestment from Apartheid South Africa, anti-sweatshop boycotts, the Palestinian call for BDS, and many others. It can be seen before the conference at The Crossing, 1127 University Avenue, with an opening program at 2 pm on Saturday, Nov. 1 and running through Thursday, Nov. 6.

The conference is sponsored by Friends of Sabeel-North America and UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, along with a number of local churches and other community groups. The cultural evening is funded in part by Associated Students of Madison.

For more information on all aspects of the conference including speakers, workshops, schedule, sponsors and costs, plus the hours for the poster exhibit, visit https://fosnamadisonconference2014.wordpress.com/ or call 520-2039. You may pre-register on line or download a mail-in registration form at that website. Walk-ins for either or both days are accepted, however, you must be pre-registered
by Monday Nov. 3 in order to attend the dinner.

Nov 7-8, 2014
Friends of Sabeel of North America (FOSNA) Conference

The Madison Times, October 22, 2014

In a year when enduring images have been burned into our collective memories of the great loss of life and indescribable destruction that occurred in the Gaza a few short months ago, a landmark national conference is coming to Madison on Nov. 7-8 that seeks to chart the path to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

“Voices for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land,” is a two-day conference occurring at the UW-Madison’s Pyle Center that will examine the role of the United States in Palestine/Israel, at an event where participants can listen to voices not often heard in the quest for peace and justice in the Holy Land. Local organizers describe this as an opportunity to hear the stories and the political and theological perspectives of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and secular writers and activists concerned with justice and peace in Palestine/Israel.

The conference is sponsored on a national basis by the Friends of Sabeel of North America (FOSNA), as well as a variety of locally-based groups drawn from a diversity of social justice and religious traditions, and the UW-Madison chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Distinguished plenary speakers from the US and Israel/Palestine will address the current situation on the ground in Gaza, in the West Bank, and for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and will explore the impact of US foreign policy, the media, and religion on the region’s struggle for justice.

The goal of the conference, organizers say, is to educate, inspire, and make connections to galvanize advocacy for justice in Palestine-Israel. In this sense, the gathering is seen as a place where the seeds of future action can be planted, and as the conference ends, the real work will be just beginning.

A Friday evening Palestinian Cultural Program is free and open to the public, and features Remi Kanazi, a spoken word artist, writer and activist, Also performing are the Milwaukee Students for Justice in Palestine Dance Troupe, featuring Debke folk dancing.

Journalist John Pilger writes,”Remi Kanazi’s poetry, full of defiance and longing, allows us to feel the power and pain of Palestine’s struggle.” Novelist John Berger adds, “You want to hear a voice which refuses to be silenced, and only such voices carry the deep truth about what’s happening these days… in Gaza or Iraq or East Jerusalem.”

The conference also features a free traveling 59-poster exhibition called “Boycott: The Art of Economic Activism”. It highlights more than 20 historical boycott movements from the 1950s to the present including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, United Farm Workers’ grape and lettuce boycott, divestment from South Africa to protest Apartheid, boycotts of corporations using sweatshops, the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and many others.

The conference begins at 12:30 pm on Friday, November 7th, and runs through 5pm on Saturday, November 8th. Friday’s events include a Palestinian dinner. Cost of the conference is $85 for both days, or $50 for a single day. Student rate is $25. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged, and is required by Nov. 3 for Friday’s dinner.

For more information including schedule, speakers, workshops, and to register on line or obtain a mail-in registration form, call (608) 520-2039 or visit https://fosnamadisonconference2014.wordpress.com

Oct 1 – Nov 26, 2014
Book group: Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine

Biweekly Wednesdays,
October 1 – November 26
“Palestine Reading Group”
The Lakefront on Langdon,
Memorial Union, UW-Madison [Map]
7 to 8:30 pm

The International Socialist Organization and Students for Justice in Palestine-Madison are hosting a discussion group on Ali Abunimah’s new book The Battle for Justice in Palestine. The first meeting will discuss the Preface and Chapter 1 (pg xi – pg 20). We will continue to meet biweekly Wednesdays @ 7pm until we finish the book.

  • “Efforts to achieve a “two-state solution” have finally collapsed; the struggle for justice in Palestine is at a crossroads. As Israel and its advocates lurch toward greater extremism, many ask where the struggle is headed. This book offers a clear analysis of this crossroads moment and looks forward with urgency down the path to a more hopeful future.”
    Ali Abunimah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine
  • “This is the best book on Palestine in the last decade. No existing book presents the staggering details and sophistication of analysis that Abunimah’s book offers.”
    Joseph Massad, Columbia University
  • “In The Battle for Justice in Palestine it is the voice of Ali Abunimah, fierce, wise – a warrior for justice and peace – someone whose large heart, one senses, beyond his calm, is constantly on fire. A pragmatist but also a poet. This is the book to read to understand the present bizarre and ongoing complexity of the Palestine/Israel tragedy.”
    Alice Walker
  • “With incisive style and scrupulous attention to documentation and detail, Ali Abunimah’s new book offers a complex portrait, from every angle, of the Palestinian struggle for justice today.”
    Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director, Jewish Voice for Peace
  • “A crucially needed dose of educated hope. This is what hits me from this fascinating amalgam of incisive journalism, analytic prose and intellectually compelling vision that emanates from many years of brilliant activism. Sailing effortlessly from the domestic to the global, from Johannesburg to Belfast and from Chicago to Tel Aviv, Ali Abunimah paints a lucid, accessible picture out of a complex web of racism, racialized oppression, and creative resistance. Abunimah does not give us hope; he helps us dig for it within us by meticulously laying out before us the facts, the trends, the challenges and the inspiring resistance to them.”
    Omar Barghouti, Palestinian human rights activist, author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights
  • October 10, 2014
    Contested Land, Contested Memory with Author Jo Roberts

    Cover for Contested Land, Contested Memory

    Israel’s Jews and Arabs and the Ghosts of Catastrophe
    By Jo Roberts

    Friday, October 10
    JO ROBERTS will be reading from her critically acclaimed book
    Rainbow Bookstore Co-operative
    426 W. Gilman St, Madison
    7:00 pm [Map]

    NOMINATED for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize 2014

    1948: As Jewish refugees, survivors of the Holocaust, struggle toward the new State of Israel, Arab refugees are fleeing, many under duress. Sixty years later, the memory of trauma has shaped both peoples’ collective understanding of who they are.

    After a war, the victors write history. How was the story of the exiled Palestinians erased – from textbooks, maps, even the land? How do Jewish and Palestinian Israelis now engage with the histories of the Palestinian Nakba (“Catastrophe”) and the Holocaust, and how do these echo through the political and physical landscapes of their country?

    Vividly narrated, with extensive original interview material, Contested Land, Contested Memory examines how these tangled histories of suffering inform Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli lives today, and frame Israel’s possibilities for peace.

    Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders get off Israel bandwagon, for once

    Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, September 26, 2014

    The Senate is warning Palestinians against undertaking any “negative” unilateral actions re Israel at the United Nations, and look who isn’t signing on to the letter that AIPAC has endorsed: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Folks have been pressing Warren and her staffers not to sign this letter – and she didn’t. Neither did Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Maybe the national publicity and pressure on these progressives over their Israel-Palestine positions moved them? Maybe they’re tacking ahead of 2016? Here are the 12 non-signers, from both parties:

    Bernard Sanders (I), Bob Corker (R), Elizabeth Warren (D), Harry Reid*, Jeff Sessions (R), John D. Rockefeller IV*, Lisa Murkowski (R), Patrick J. Leahy* (D), Rand Paul (R), Tammy Baldwin (D), Tom Coburn (R), Tom Harkin* (D).

    (*Majority leader/ senior committee chairs who don’t usually subscribe to these things)

    Is this the beginning of a Senate “refuser caucus”? We can only hope. A friend who emailed the office of one liberal northeastern senator who did sign the letter got back this note:

    Thank you for sharing your concerns with the Senator. I would like to share with you the J Street perspective on the letter if that helps.

    J Street supported the letter, right alongside AIPAC. Another sign of JStreet as “AIPAC Lite” giving liberal cover for the Israel lobby agenda.

    The text of the letter is up at New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte‘s site. It urges the State Department to keep Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities and governing Gaza, and to prevent the Palestinian Authority from going to the International Criminal Court.

    Letter Presses Administration to Prevent Hamas from Rebuilding Military Capabilities and Calls for Gaza Demilitarization
    Sep 23, 2014
    Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group, announced that they’ve led a letter signed by 88 senators to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the Administration to take steps to ensure that no assistance is diverted to Hamas, support the Palestinian Authority’s effort to govern in Gaza, and discourage Palestinian unilateral measures at the United Nations and International Criminal Court that bypass direct negotiations and undermine the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
    The Senators wrote, “As we look ahead to the next few months, we urge you to focus on three key objectives: (1) preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities; (2) enabling the Palestinian Authority to move toward becoming the Palestinian governing authority in Gaza; and (3) preventing negative developments at the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and the International Criminal Court that could derail any prospects for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”
    The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
    September 23, 2014
    The Honorable John Kerry
    Secretary of State
    U.S. Department of State
    2201 C Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20520

    Dear Secretary Kerry,
    We were pleased to see that Hamas finally accepted an Egyptian cease-fire plan last month. Sadly, Hamas continued its attacks on Israel for weeks after Egypt’s initial proposal, leading to unnecessary and increased suffering in Gaza and Israel.
    As we look ahead to the next few months, we urge you to focus on three key objectives: (1) preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities; (2) enabling the Palestinian Authority to move toward becoming the Palestinian governing authority in Gaza; and (3) preventing negative developments at the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and the International Criminal Court that could derail any prospects for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
    First, we fully support the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. We must also condition reconstruction assistance on the establishment of a system to prevent Hamas from rearming and rebuilding its military capability. In the past, Hamas has diverted construction materials intended for civilian use to the construction of the tunnel networks that were used during this last conflict to smuggle weapons and attack Israelis. We must support Israeli and Egyptian efforts to implement strict, comprehensive controls so that no assistance is diverted to Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. The international community has twice spent billions to rebuild Gaza, only to see Hamas transform economic assistance into the means of war. For the sake of Israelis and Palestinians alike, we cannot let this happen again. Ultimately, we must seek Gaza’s demilitarization.
    Second, we must support efforts to enable the Palestinian Authority to exercise real power in Gaza. Hamas has demonstrated conclusively both that it has no interest in peace with Israel and that it has no concern for the well-being of Gaza residents. Meanwhile, the West Bank has experienced periods of significant relative economic growth and stability, in part due to cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces there. All Palestinians deserve a government that will seek to advance their safety and prosperity-not use them as human shields. Real peace between Israelis and Palestinians will require a Palestinian partner that controls the West Bank and Gaza, is focused on economic development and stability in both areas, and will accept Gaza’s demilitarization. We must start this process now.
    Third, while we work with the Palestinian Authority to extend its effective jurisdiction to Gaza, we must work equally hard to ensure that Palestinian officials do not take further harmful steps at the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, or the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority must avoid steps that would undermine the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. We must let Palestinian Authority President Abbas know that America’s willingness to cooperate with him will continue to depend on his willingness to return to the negotiating table with the Government of Israel and avoid unilateral measures that bypass direct negotiations.
    We look forward to working with you on these critical matters, as our nation strives both to prevent another Hamas-instigated war and to create the conditions that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to move closer to peace.

    Sincerely,

    Kelly A. Ayotte
    Robert P. Casey, Jr.
    James M. Inhofe
    Richard Blumenthal
    Susan M. Collins
    Edward J. Markey
    Mike Crapo
    Joe Manchin III
    Pat Roberts
    Jeanne Shaheen
    Jeff Flake
    Tim Kaine
    David Vitter
    Michael F. Bennet
    John Boozman
    Kirsten Gillibrand
    John Thune
    Tim Johnson
    Jerry Moran
    Debbie Stabenow
    Roy Blunt
    Patty Murray
    John McCain
    Kay R. Hagan
    James E. Risch
    Mark Begich
    Marco Rubio
    Ron Wyden
    Patrick J. Toomey
    Barbara Boxer
    Dean Heller
    Benjamin L. Cardin
    John Barrasso
    Mark Udall
    Richard Burr
    Mazie K. Hirono
    Lindsey O. Graham
    Brian Schatz
    Mitch McConnell
    Amy Klobuchar
    Thad Cochran
    Heidi Heitkamp
    Deb Fischer
    Jon Tester
    John Cornyn
    Sherrod Brown
    Rob Portman
    Mark L. Pryor
    Michael B. Enzi
    Barbara A. Mikulski
    Mark Kirk
    Maria Cantwell
    Lamar Alexander
    Martin Heinrich
    Orrin G. Hatch
    Mary L. Landrieu
    Tim Scott
    Tom Udall
    Roger F. Wicker
    Tom Carper
    John Hoeven
    Charles E. Schumer
    Mike Lee
    Joe Donnelly
    Chuck Grassley
    Al Franken
    Ted Cruz
    Christopher A. Coons
    Johnny Isakson
    Sheldon Whitehouse
    Mike Johanns
    Cory Booker
    Ron Johnson
    Carl Levin
    Saxby Chambliss
    Bill Nelson
    Dan Coats
    Mark R. Warner
    Richard Shelby
    Angus S. King, Jr.
    Claire McCaskill
    John Walsh
    Richard J. Durbin
    Chris Murphy
    Robert Menendez
    Jack Reed
    Dianne Feinstein
    Jeff Merkley

    Michele Bahl: How can we be indifferent to suffering of children in Gaza?

    Michele Bahl, Cap Times, Sep 20, 2014

    Dear Editor: For three days, at the Barrymore Theater Sept. 12, Fighting Bob Fest Sept. 13 and at the Willy Street Fair Sept. 14, I stood with a large cardboard panel of horrific and gruesome pictures of children who were wounded and killed in Gaza in July by Israel’s brutal assault in which 2,200 people, the majority of them civilians, were killed by bombs. We in the Madison Rafah Sister City Project call it “The Wall of Shame: Pictures from the Gaza Assault.” Politicians, even progressive ones, will not talk about these pictures.

    During the 50 days of Israel’s bombardment on the people of Gaza, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an additional $225 million to Israel fund their “Iron Dome” missile system. Their vote supported Israel’s massacre on the people of Gaza.

    During his speech at Fighting Bob Fest on Saturday, Chris Hedges, an author and former foreign correspondent of The New York Times, said this about Gaza: “I have stood over bodies, including the bodies of children, left behind by Israeli airstrikes and assaults. I have watched mothers and fathers cradle their dead and bloodied boys and girls in their arms, convulsed by an indescribable grief, shrieking in pitiful cries to an indifferent universe.”

    How can we be indifferent? How can we walk by pictures of wounded and dead children and not even look? During the three days I was out, there were a lot of people who did look though, especially children. It was children who got close, read the headlines and were visibly impacted. But so many adults just kept on walking by. But if we keep walking by, nothing will change. Israel will continue to get billions of dollars in U.S aid every year, and more innocent Gazans will be killed.

    Michele Bahl

    Madison